Thursday, August 31, 2017

Camp So-and-So by Mary McCoy

This is an...odd book. I finished it, and it was quite lengthy, but I'm not sure I would recommend it.

Twenty-five campers have been invited to summer camp. They are divided into five cabins. Each cabin has an adventure. Cabin 1 is participating in the All-Camp Sports and Follies. This is their chance to beat the posh campers across the lake and Kadie is determined that this will be the year they win. But is she really a returning camper? And are the rival campers even human? Cabin 2 is being stalked by a murderer...or are they? They're a disparate group but they can come together to survive anything - they hope. Cabin 3 is on a quest, united in their goal of discovering a secret treasure. But perhaps they should have thought about it a little more before taking off into the woods... Cabin 4 has 4 best friends and one lonely girl who meet their soulmates, but they're not quite what they seem... and Cabin 5 is in serious trouble right from the start.


So, the story is told jumping back and forth from cabin to cabin. People "die" (although none of the campers actually gets killed) and various chapters end on cliffhangers. Some of the campers are just focused on survival, some are working through personal problems and issues, some have realized that Something is Going On. Throughout the story, the theme of a popular series of girls' adventure stories is woven and readers also hear from a narrator, with more and more hints that everything is stage-managed. We never really discover the exact nature of the beings that are running the camp, but the implication is that they're some kind of faery since iron injures them. There is a conclusion of types; the narrator is freed, both from the creatures and her own mental prison, the girls are rescued more or less intact, and no mention is made of the fate of previous campers and personnel who didn't survive their summer adventure.

This is certainly intriguing, and I continued reading to the end of all 413 pages to see what happened, but I found myself fervently wishing that the story would get on with it at several points. It's not really a horror story, although people are attacked frequently, not really a fantasy although magic does exist, and not a love story although kisses are exchanged. One story line follows a girl who is panicked that her cabin mates will discover her soulmate is a girl, but it's not the focus of their plot thread. Several descriptions imply racial diversity, but it's rarely specified. Ultimately it's a weird and unique blend that I think would have done better if it had been about 100 pages shorter.

Verdict: A good story, but I can't think of an audience - it would have to be one that is comfortable both with first kisses, spider monsters, and narrow escapes from death as well as soul-searching. That's kind of a limited field. Also, it's over 400 pages long. I enjoyed it, but can't quite recommend it. I'd say it's an additional purchase for a specific type of middle school reader.

ISBN: 9781512415971; Published 2017 by Carolrhoda Lab; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Small Readers: My kite is stuck and other stories by Salina Yoon

Salina Yoon returns with the second title in the Duck, Duck, Porcupine! series. Purple Porcupine, chatty Big Duck, and silent Little Duck play out a series of hilarious encounters in three short chapters.

In the titular story, "My kite is stuck!" Big Duck's kite get stuck in the tree. She and Porcupine throw up other things, which all stick too. However, Little Duck keeps the story from falling into a cliche as she brings some helpful things - a step stool and ladder. Unfortunately, Big Duck and Porcupine don't quite get it! The story ends with the two up in the tree, happily playing with their toys, and Little Duck's blank but somehow exasperated expression looking at the reader.

In the second story, Porcupine makes a new friend - a bee! But Big Duck isn't so sure that counts until she finds her own buggy friend. Next to find a bug is Little Duck - but she's not so excited! The third and final story finds Porcupine and Big Duck setting up a lemonade stand. But they've forgotten one key item! Fortunately, Little Duck has them covered, as usual.

Yoon's boldly colored illustrations are presented in full or half-page panels with thick, black lines delineating separating each panel. The text is all dialogue, contained in speech bubbles, but in a bold, large font. It's an easy reading level with simple text but the need to follow the action through both the dialogue and art gives an added dimension to the simple stories. I thought this one was even funnier than the first and I look forward to new additions to the series.

Verdict: I've had a very positive response for this new series in book club. While it's not as raucously funny (or well-known) as some of the other comic easy readers like Elephant & Piggie, it's a strong addition to any easy reader section and both children and adults enjoy reading them together. Recommended.

ISBN: 9781619638877; Published 2017 by Bloomsbury; Purchased for the library

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Goodbye Summer, Hello Autumn by Kenard Pak

Kenard Pak, illustrator for several lovely books, branches out on his own and creates the first in what I hope will be a truly lovely series.

A girl walks out into the summer day - but as she walks through the forest, into the town, and back home, there are signs of changes everywhere. She greets the trees, the wind, the sun, and others and each replies with a simple explanation of how they are changing for the coming season.

"Hello, thunder. Hello! You can hear my low rumble from far away. My clouds loom over the open fields and quiet hills."

Even more so than the text, Pak's unique art catches the mood of the cusp of the season. Quick splashes of color and shapes flutter across the pages like the first falling leaves. A diverse cast of characters lives peacefully in a small, rural town, enjoying the last sunny days before winter. The simple text is enhanced by seamlessly integrated facts - how beavers prepare for winter, the sun setting earlier, etc.

Verdict: A perfect choice for seasonal storytimes, this one has delighted toddlers and preschoolers in our library. I look forward to the sequel coming fall 2017. Highly recommended.

ISBN: 9781627794152; Published 2016 by Henry Holt; Purchased for the library

Monday, August 28, 2017

Moto and me: My year as a wildcat's foster mom by Suzi Eszterhas

Suzi Eszterhas, photographer and author of several books for kids featuring wildlife, tells the story of caring for an orphaned wildcat while she worked as a photographer.

Moto, a tiny serval kitten, is given to Eszterhas to raise as she goes about her daily business of photography. She talks about her life as an animal photographer, how Moto came to be abandoned, and how she cared for him and helped me grow and become independent.

The book is a mixture of factual explanations of a serval's life and some of the other animals in the area combined with anecdotes of Moto's life both funny and educational. Eventually, Moto learns to hunt and takes off into the savannah; he's later glimpsed living successfully on his own by park rangers.

The book ends with a collection of facts about servals, including a warning against purchasing exotic pets or mixed breeds like Savanna cats.

The book is longer than a picture book, although that's its format. And, of course, it's absolutely full of gorgeous photographs of Moto growing from a delightfully fluffy kitten to a graceful, sleek serval.

Verdict: A great title for beginning chapter and intermediate readers or to share with a classroom. Kids will love the friendly, simple text and all the adorable photographs. There are even a few gentle reminders about not interfering with wildlife along the way. Recommended.

ISBN: 9781771472425; Published 2017 by Owlkids; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Saturday, August 26, 2017

This week at the library

What's happening
  • Monday was the final eclipse madness. I took the day off (totally coincidentally - I had forgotten at the time that there was an eclipse) and my associate got stuck with the activities and madness. She's leaving in a week so won't have the opportunity for revenge for this...
  • I no longer have words for the rest of this week. It's all gone crazy. We now only have one hamster.
  • I spent the rest of the week
    • Planning book clubs
    • Cleaning stuff off my desk
    • Getting ready for the new staff
    • Planning other programs
Reading Explorer

I'm also working today and I haven't had a moment to breathe. Computer problems, plugged toilets, reader's advisory, never-ending stream of people. We're busy! A partial list of Saturday...

  • At least an hour or more spent dealing with the printer
  • Microfilm and local history resources
  • Reader's advisory for teachers - middle school, 4K
  • Searching for a missing video game that's gotten screwed up in the catalog
  • Men's bathroom issues
  • Dealing with fines and other issues as the Librarian in Charge
  • Helping patrons with the copier
  • Helping a patron with a reference question
  • Is the new Gifted movie based on a book? After some search, the answer is no
Also still working on book clubs, filling displays, tidying the children's area, reviewing schedules and work for next week, and more.

Friday, August 25, 2017

Tiptoe into scary places: Spooky Libraries by Jessica Rudolph

Bearport does quite a good line of scary/ghost nonfiction titles. This is a sample from a new series, but I was honestly a little disappointed.

After an introduction that attempts to set a spooky tone "You stand frozen in fear. What unearthly being is making that noise?" the book describes four supposedly haunted libraries.

The Millicent Library in MA is said to be haunted by the daughter of the founder, Millicent, and other members of the family. The Sweetwater County Library was built on a disturbed cemetery. The Peoria Public Library was built on land that was cursed by the evicted owner, a curse that was proven by the tragic deaths of the first three library directors. Finally, the Blanche Skiff Ross Memorial Library in Nevada was built on the site of a hospital that housed victims of a fire, many of whom died. There is also supposedly the ghost of a previous teacher at the college who committed suicide.

The last pages of the book show a map with the locations of the four haunted libraries, a glossary, index, two additional titles about haunted libraries, and a link to the publisher's website online.

I'm a little confused about the audience for this title. Bearport's haunted places series are usually directed towards middle grade readers, but this one has the format of their easy reader line, Little Bits! being a smaller square. It's only 24 pages and the text is brief, but more complex than an easy reader. While I certainly have younger readers who would like to read creepy stories, I have yet to meet any parents or caregivers who will allow them to do so, which limits the audience for this book. I was also disappointed that there was very little information given about the hauntings, just vague rumors and historical events without context.

Verdict: If you have the audience for very low-level spooky titles, this is probably a really good choice. Unfortunately, it just doesn't fit in with my library's needs.

ISBN: 9781684020492; Published 2017 by Bearport; Review copy provided by publisher

Thursday, August 24, 2017

The Bone Snatcher by Charlotte Salter

This debut novel was odd but intriguing. Warning - here be SPOILERS.

Sophie Seacove is a self-proclaimed storyteller. But her own story isn't one she really wants to tell. Having caught the terrible Sea Fever, her parents have abandoned her - well, sold her to be more accurate - and she's on her way across the monster-ridden sea to the terrifying and mysterious mansion on Catacomb Hill. Deep inside, Sophie wonders if her parents didn't just want to be rid of her, with her strange white hair, extra goes, and odd behavior, but she's determined to get her hands on a ticket to the New Continent and rejoin her parents in a new life.

Meanwhile, she's the new bone snatcher, helping old Mister Scree feed the monsters and keep them from destroying the island, avoiding the nasty twins whose violent games are both frightening and disgusting, and staying out of the way of their mother. Then, riding out of the sea, comes Cartwright, the twins' cousin. Sophie is plunged even deeper into a web of lies, secrets, and mysteries until the adventure comes to a climactic finish.

The ending is both gruesome and hopeful; Sophie discovers the New Continent, that thousands of people have set off in search of, is only a cruel dream created by a dead scientist and her parents, along with everyone else, are dead. The insane twins meet a gruesome and violent end and Sophie discovers the secret cure for the monsters and Sea Fever is just a dream. But even dreams have a basis in reality and with Cartwright at her side and the encouragement of Mr. Scree she sets out to tell new stories and show people the monsters are just creatures like them.

This is an odd story, both gruesome and violent in parts, but definitely mesmerizing. It clicks for me as a read-alike for Joan Aiken, but she doesn't get read much anymore. Possibly Series of Unfortunate Events, although it's much more serious and fantastical. In the end, it's its own creation and best for readers who like dark and dramatic stories with an extra dose of scary.

ISBN: 9780399186349; Published 2017 by Dial; Review copy provided by the publisher; Donated to the library

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Read, Read, Read, said the Baby: Pairs! In the garden by Smriti Prasadam-Halls and Lorna Scobie

This lift-the-flap board book is adorable, but not as sturdy as I need a board book to be.

Each spread features a rhyming couplet, for example "Grasshoppers are often seen/playing on the grassy green./With jumps and leaps they spring along,/chirruping a merry song." The creature introduced is in bold type.

Each spread has bright, colorful illustrations and 7 flaps. The flaps lift from the top down. They are easy to find, featuring the same plant or other image. Beneath the flaps are 7 of a creature with 3 pairs and 1 odd creature. They are colorful and bright and readers are encouraged to match up the creatures. There is also a seek and find counting challenge; 5 acorns, 10 ants, etc.

The book is a 7x7 square with thin but fairly sturdy cardboard. The flaps, however, are only made of thick cardstock and since they bend down and the pages are very crowded, would be almost impossible to reinforce.

The cartoon illustrations are colorful but very busy. I prefer simpler illustrations for very young children whose eyes are still developing.

Verdict: While I wouldn't add this to a board book collection, it would make a great addition to a storytime kit or toy bag and I'm planning on adding this one to a garden kit or possibly my existing seasons kit.

ISBN: 9781847808837; Published 2017 by Frances Lincoln; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Duck and Hippo: Lost and Found by Jonathan London, illustrated by Andrew Joyner

Only a few months ago I reviewed the first Duck and Hippo title and now there's already a sweet sequel!

Duck and Hippo are planning to meet their friends Turtle, Elephant, and Pig, for a picnic. But when they arrive, Hippo realizes that he forgot to bring something to share! The celebration is put on hold while he goes off on his own to find some berries... and doesn't come back! Soon all the animals are lost in the woods, searching for each other. Will they ever find Hippo? Will Hippo find the berries? Is it too late for their picnic?

This sweet tale of friendship has the repeated phrases that will keep small children interested and make for a fun storytime read. There's enough tension in the story to interest a preschooler but not enough scary moments to really scare them. Most of all, the story is just fun!

This is best seen in the illustrations, which I admit are my favorite part of this series. I love Joyner's bold colors, dark lines, and friendly-looking animals. This book has many evening and night scenes, which Joyner executes delightfully with rich turquoise, dark blue, and black images. The bright pops of color in the animals' clothes, comforting curved lines of their faces and bodies, and the rich greens of the forest are all just right for this old-fashioned tale of friendship and fun.

Verdict: Just as adults may have their comfort reads, children have them too - and this is exactly what I'd look for as a child. A simple, predictable story, humorous and engaging illustrations, and memorable characters. This is a great addition to a storytime on friendship or even bedtime fears and a fun read for any kind of celebration.

ISBN: 9781542045629; Published 2017 by Two Lions; Review copy provided by publisher; Donated to the library

Monday, August 21, 2017

Nonfiction Monday: This book stinks! by Sarah Wassner Flynn

I've been looking for more books for kids on getting involved with science to make a difference, for my library as well as for a forthcoming article. I had hoped to use this title, but was disappointed in the end.

It's a collection of factoids about garbage, trash, pollution and how it's destroying the planet. It also talks about recycling and how kids can get involved in working toward a world with less trash.

It's a very typical National Geographic book with lots of eye-popping bright colors, short, quick facts, and crazy layouts. It includes quizzes, activities, and short biographies of activists and scientists who are involved in trying to deal with trash and recycling.

So, ultimately it's just fine for something to breeze through for quick ideas, to get kids started on researching trash and pollution, or for browsing. But there were a couple reasons this didn't really click with what I needed. It's very surface - there's no in-depth exploration of the varying types of recycling and the arguments about how they work and which is better. All of the tips and suggestions are heavily tilted towards a suburban, middle class audience. The activities also didn't encourage readers to think below the surface. The section that suggests kids have a clean up day...suggests printing and hanging flyers. There's no mention of picking them up afterwards either! Kind of defeats the purpose there... It assumes every kid lives in a house with a backyard and the ability to start a compost pile - what about all the kids in apartments or urban areas? The book is heavy on suggesting cutting back on paper and using reusable bags, washrags, and napkins but there's no discussion of the environmental impact of washing machines (heavy). The section on upcycling suggests decorating a container with wrapping paper, which is not recyclable.

Is this a bad book? No. It doesn't suggest or do anything very different from any other kids' recycling book. It's a perfectly good surface introduction and kids will enjoy the bite-sized facts. I was just looking for more and this book did not provide it.

Verdict: If you're looking to bulk out your recycling/environmental section this is an additional purchase.

ISBN: 9781426327308; Published March 2017 by National Geographic; Review copy provided by publisher; Donated to the library

Saturday, August 19, 2017

This week at the library

What's going on
  • staff meeting (budgets, plans for next year, staffing)
  • Craft-o-rama
  • Open Lego Build
  • The eclipse (I worked Thursday night for extra coverage and then am taking Friday - Monday off, so my assistant is doing the crafty things on Monday...) Suffice it to say, this has occupied a lot of our time and attention.
  • Hamster drama. The hamster ran away last week. We bought another one several days later. He was rediscovered this week. Now we have two hamsters.
  • endless computer problems with both staff and patron computers. gah.
  • Weeding 900s - I've started into the 970s!
  • Revising and planning book clubs for the fall

Friday, August 18, 2017

Hilde cracks the case: Hero Dog by Hilde and Matthew Lysiak, illustrated by Joanne Lew-Vriethoff

The Branches series have proved to be one of the most popular new series at my library in years. Not all of them have clicked with my readers (and a few I didn't purchase) but enough that they have their own section and plenty of fans!

I'm always excited to see and review a new addition to the series and I was very interested in this one. On the one hand, there are a lot of beginning chapter mysteries. On the other hand, Branches is pretty good at adding something new to their series. This one turned out to be no exception.

Hilde Lysiak is a real-life kid reporter who runs her own newspaper. The stories in this new series are inspired by her real experiences, although they're fictionalized. The first installment introduces us to Hilde and her nose for news. She's sniffed out a mystery - and a story - in the recent spate of mysterious break-ins. But only baked goods are being stolen or destroyed!

With the help of her family and friends and her own mystery-solving skills, Hilde interviews, investigates, and finally discovers the real culprits! The story includes tips on writing, interviewing, and sleuthing as well as vocabulary and a note about Hilde herself.

The finished and earlier sketches in the arc look attractive and fun. The final art will be black and white. This is one of the higher-level Branches titles, similar to Notebook of Doom and Dragon Masters. Readers will be eager to try a new mystery series with the additional nonfiction facts and interactive suggestions.

Verdict: If you don't already have Branches series, you need to get some right away! The most popular for us have been Notebook of Doom, Dragon Masters, Owl Diaries, and Boris. I think this one will definitely be added to the list of "must-haves" and I'm looking forward to using it in a book club when there are enough copies available.

ISBN: 9781338141566; Published September 2017 by Scholastic; ARC provided by publisher at ALA; Purchased for the library

Thursday, August 17, 2017

The Emperor's Riddle by Kat Zhang

Mia is visiting China with her mother, older brother Jake, and Aunt Lin. Mia feels left out and awkward - she's shy and quiet, prefers to read and dream while her mother and brother are outgoing, ambitious, and successful. Both Mia and Jake are uncomfortable around their unfamiliar relatives and don't really understand their mother's urge to visit her childhood home. Mia feels like the only person who understands her is her historian Aunt Lin.

When Lin disappears, leaving only a cryptic note behind, the rest of the family says it's "just Aunt Lin." But Mia is sure that's not true. Aunt Lin promised her she'd never go away without telling Mia, not after their father left and never came back. Mia is sure there's something going on - and it's all connected to the emperor's treasure that she and her aunt have talked about so often. But they're not the only ones searching for it and danger is getting ever closer...

This is as much a nuanced portrait and a family and the way history and culture affects people as it is an exciting adventure and mystery. Mia is frustrated that Jake seems to fit in better in China - even though she's the one who speaks better Mandarin - because he can blend effortlessly in with the local boys and play sports. The after effects of the Cultural Revolution are referenced in a way that's both relevant and understandable. Mia vaguely knows that this is something that had a huge effect on her family, but she can't really grasp the full concept.

The mystery is equally intriguing, blending clues and history together as Mia and Jake travel to different spots to solve the riddles and clues, explore the map, and eventually discover the treasure - and Aunt Lin.

Verdict: This is an exciting adventure that is sure to grab the attention of mystery fans but it will also resonate with children whose parents immigrated from another country and those readers who want to look into a different experience or culture. Recommend to fans of Thanhha Lai, Blue Balliett, and Christina Diaz Gonzalez.

ISBN: 9781481478625; Published 2017 by Aladdin; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Small Readers: Snow Hens by Janet Morgan Stoeke

I was baffled when a new kid joined my Bookaneers book club and declared, firmly, that they ONLY read books about tractors. Nothing else. So I went on a concerted hunt for farm-related books (side note - they changed their mind after I got them interested in some other titles).

I've always loved Janet Morgan Stoeke's simple but funny books and happily added her easy reader series, The Loopy-Coop Hens, back when they first came out. They've now been released in a more traditional easy reader format and I pulled a couple, including Snow Hens, to entice my reluctant farmophile.

In this intermediate easy reader, Midge, Pip, and Dot are making a snow hen. Or trying to anyways. When a disagreement arises over who is going to make the beak, Dot takes off to make her own creation while Midge and Pip fight over competing creations of a fox and a snow hen. Which one will Rooster Sam like the best? Meanwhile, Dot has come up with a snow sculpture that they can all appreciate!

The silly squabbles will make readers giggle while perhaps seeing their own sibling quarrels in the hens. Even grown-ups will have a chuckle over Pip's dramatic declarations about art. Stoeke's illustrations are simple but humorous; a quirk of an eyebrow or curve of a beak expresses a world of emotions. The font is bold but a little smaller than a pre-reader, suited to its intermediate level. Most of the text is placed on white backgrounds but a few are against barn walls or other colored backdrops. The one thing an early reader might find confusing is keeping the hens straight during their dialogue.

Verdict: Funny and relatable, this is a strong addition to any easy reader section.

ISBN: 9780448488448; This edition published 2016 by Penguin young readers; Purchased for the library

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Daddy Honk Honk! by Rosalinde Bonnet

This sweet story shows a community of animals coming together to take care of a gosling. Aput the fox notices that the geese have left behind an egg - and it hatches! He doesn't know anything about being a daddy, but with advice and help from the other animals they soon form a family. It's not long before all the animals are welcoming little Aurora to their midst.

The illustrations are sweet and tender, showing a cheerful variety of blocky animals introducing the little blue gosling to her new home. Some of my favorite illustrations are the scenes in the ocean, teaming with undersea life. This is clearly a fantasy tundra, where Aput's bunny slippers are a silly touch and Aput knows he needs to feed the baby "yummy" and "healthy" food (contents of the jars unspecified!)

The real star of the show is Aput. He's not sure how to care for a baby, but with the help of his friends, he learns all about what babies need and is soon the perfect daddy to his little honk-honk Aurora.

Verdict: A delightful addition to storytime or one-on-one reading, especially sweet for families who have experience with adoption or non-traditional family structures.

ISBN: 978039918679; Published 2017 by Penguin; Review copy provided by publisher; Donated to the library

Monday, August 14, 2017

Seashores by Cathryn and John Sill

It's the tenth anniversary of the About Habitats series by Cathryn and John Sill and they have a new book out to celebrate the occasion.

Most people probably think of sandy beaches when they think of seashores, but they are actually a diverse habitat and the Sills showcase that in their latest nature book.

A flattened globe introduces the concept of seashores "narrow strips of land that border the seas." The book includes one or two sentences for each colored plate. The seashores included show rocky cliffs, icy rocks, sandy beaches, mud flats, and rolling surf.

Each seashore is shown with the different wildlife that inhabits it from seals and seagulls to tide pools, crabs, and worms. The book also includes plants - flowers and trees - and some of the natural phenomena on seashores like tides.

The back matter includes thumbnails of each spread with more in-depth explanations of everything from tidepools to shorebirds to environmental issues with seashores.

Verdict: This series is a staple for my library; I recommend it to teachers and parents all the time and have used them in flannelboards and interactive reading with classes. That being said, this one felt a little, I don't know, forced. The animal series is, I think, better than the habitats although there's a need for these as well. I will absolutely buy and use it, but I think there are so many books on seashores that this one doesn't stand out quite as much as some of their previous titles.

ISBN: 9781561459681; Published 2017 by Peachtree; F&G provided by publisher for review

Sunday, August 13, 2017

RA RA READ: Read it and Weep: A Child Called It Read-Alikes

Misery memoirs. They're a thing. I personally am not a fan and have never read A Child Called It, but I do get a LOT of teens and young adults asking for them and it never goes away. I had someone ask for Living Dead Girl in June, which was how I discovered our copy was long missing and I just saw a link to Abby the Librarian's read-alikes list, which is still relevant! I went back and forth on whether or not to include blurbs and decided not. Because I didn't have time and this isn't really my genre. The common theme in all of these, fiction and nonfiction, is some kind of harrowing event or childhood, mental struggles, and eventual triumph and hope.

Young Adult Nonfiction (mostly all memoirs)
  • Three little words; Three more words by Ashley Rhodes-Courter
  • The dead inside by Cyndy Etler
  • The year we disappeared by Cylin Busby 
  • Deep water by Katherine Nichols (true crime)
  • One Cut by Eve Porinchak (true crime)
  • Elena Vanishing by Elena Dunkle 
  • Invisible Girl by Mariel Hemingway 
  • Smile for the camera by Kelle James 
  • All better now by Emily Smith 
Adult Nonfiction 
  • Sickened by Julie Gregory 
  • Glass castle by Jeannette Walls 
Young Adult Fiction
  • Ellen Hopkins (novels in verse)
  • Elizabeth Scott
    • Living dead girl
    • Love you, hate you, miss you
    • Grace 
  • Carol Lynch Williams
    • Glimpse (novel in verse)
    • Chosen one
  • Laurie Halse Anderson
    • Speak
    • Wintergirls 
  • By the time you read this, I’ll be dead by Julie Ann Peters
  • Boot camp by Todd Strasser
  • Split by Swati Avasthi
  • Cut by Patricia McCormick 
  • Because I am furniture by Thalia Chaltas (novel in verse)
  • Scars by C. A. Rainfield

Saturday, August 12, 2017

This week at the library; or, Projects continue

  • This week's projects
    • I think we finally worked out our hiring plans. Now I am working on writing/revising a lot of training materials. 
    • As part of this I'm also adding a lot of reader's advisory bookmarks.
    • Finished the teen fiction weeding, including storage.
    • Still cleaning out the basement. I think one more day next week will do it.
    • Started again on weeding the 900s - I stopped at the 960s a couple months ago.
    • Craft-o-Rama and Free Lego Build
  • Professional Development
    • SLJ Teen Live

Friday, August 11, 2017

The Great Art Caper by Victoria Jamieson

Class hamster GW and his friends Sunflower and Barry are back! In their latest adventure, they've settled down to become class pets and are peacefully enjoying their quiet nights with puzzles and poetry. GW even has a secret little crush on a girl in his classroom, not that he'd ever admit it though.

GW is thrilled when he hears there's going to be an art competition. Not only will things get a little more exciting, but Carina (the kid in his class) has a special exhibit! But Harriet the evil mouse queen and her minions, not to mention the snake Lucinda, are all waiting for them. Will they make it to the fabled art closet and save the day?

I thought the first title in the series, The Great Pet Escape, was a little stronger and funnier. The animals had more distinct personalities and there were lots of twists and turns. This book was more about GW learning to admit that he has feelings for Carina and giving his friends a chance to show their own strengths. It was still quite funny though, teachers and parents will especially get a kick out of the references to prior Art Incidents.

Jamieson's art continues the cute and colorful theme from her first book. All the rodents have distinct looks, from Harriet's cute pink ears to Sunflower's jaunty flower crown. The art room is a triumph of organization and art supplies and the inventions GW creates are both charming and hilarious.

Verdict: Readers will want to have read the first book before diving into this one; hand the series to kids who like cute and funny and anyone who is nostalgic about Jean Van Leeuwen's Great Cheese Conspiracy series.

ISBN: 9781627791182; Published 2017 by Henry Holt; Purchased for the library

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Hello, Universe by Erin Entrada Kelly

I was skeptical going into this book; I've been struggling to get back into reading middle grade and the multiple perspectives and quirky characters didn't really grab me. But once I got into it, I couldn't put it down.

The story is told in alternating chapters from the viewpoints of four kids. Virgil Salinas is shy, bullied, and wishes he could get up the courage to talk to the girl he admires, tell the bully to leave him alone, or even just ask his family to stop calling him "Turtle." His only friend is quirky Kaori Tanaka and his grandmother who tells him stories of kids lost and eaten.

Valencia Somerset has no friends either, not after her "friends" decided it was too much trouble to deal with her deafness and dumped her. Now she just has her overbearing mother and her secret dog friend in the woods.

Chet Bullens doesn't think of himself as a bully, he's just living up to his dad's expectations and being the strong kid. Kaori knows what she knows, even if her parents and little sister Gen don't believe she has second sight or psychic abilities.


The four come together one afternoon in the woods when Chet throws Virgil's backpack into an old well. Unknown to Chet, Virgil's guinea pig Gulliver is in the backpack and he goes down after it and gets trapped. Valencia is the next participant in the drama, as she puts the cover back on the well so protect her animals in the woods, unable to hear Virgil's cries for help. The four are brought together by Kaori's efforts to help her friends; she's trying to find Virgil, who she was going to help get the confidence to speak to Valencia and Valencia is a new client trying to get rid of the nightmare that continually plagues her.

There are no final answers for the participants in this story. Chet doesn't have any kind of epiphany and although readers may sympathize with his behavior because of his home life, he ends up backing off from Virgil when Virgil is able to stand up to him. Valencia doesn't solve her problem of her overbearing mother, but she does find a more sympathetic and congenial friend in Kaori and, hopefully, a new friend in Virgil as well, who admires her smart, stubborn, and confident personality. Virgil is the one most changed by the story as his time trapped in the well gives him the courage to start standing up and having a voice. He's still shy and quiet, but he's able to speak up for himself in the way that he most desperately wants to, changing the way his parents and friends see him.

Ultimately, this is a story about inner change, about kids making a difference in their own lives and the lives around them by small, everyday choices. Kelly's lovely writing brings out the thoughts and inner reflections of this group of quirky, quiet kids who are pushed into the background of their family and schools but shine in their own ways.

Verdict: Recommend this to fans of Wonder (it's much, much better in my opinion), Michele Hurwitz, Laurel Snyder, and other quiet but powerful stories of finding yourself. Recommended.

ISBN: 9780062414151; Published 2017 by Greenwillow; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Read, Read, Read, said the Baby: Jane Foster's Brown Bear Color Book

Misleadingly, this large-format board book is marked as a "hardcover" on Baker & Taylor, but it is, in fact, a board book.

Each spread features a color and text on one side and a selection of different objects on the other. Each selection of text ends with asking where Brown Bear is (spoiler alert - the bear is revealed by a die cut in the center of the page). Sample text reads "Golden lion, buzzing bee. What other yellow things do you see?" This spread shows a yellow rubber ducky on a polka-dot yellow background, orange pineapple with white stalk/leaves, stylized flower or sun (not quite sure), yellow boots, and a sunflower. The final page reveals brown bear and his favorite colors, shown in colorful round flowers, one of which shows a rim of each color from a previous page in the die cut circle.

The board book is large, about 10x10, with flexible cardboard pages and a paper over board binding.

Verdict: I like the unique art style, but I'm not sure it's clear enough for little ones to figure out what all the items are (I couldn't figure out some of them!). I will probably pass on this one.

ISBN: 9781499803303; Published 2016 by little bee; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Garcia & Colette go exploring by Hannah Barnaby, illustrated by Andrew Joyner

I'm really getting into the new picture books I've been seeing with Andrew Joyner's illustrations.

In this story, Garcia the rabbit and Colette the fox are having a disagreement. Garcia wants to explore the vastness of outer space, but Colette wants to dive deep into the ocean! The two friends solve their difficulty by building their own spaceship and submarine, respectively, and take off to explore their chosen destination.

Colette and Garcia love the sand and stars that they see and observe many wonderful things, but in the end they both realize space is missing something - a friend. Can the two find a perfect place to explore that has everything they both want?

In addition to the sweet friendship story, this book draws interesting parallels between different landscapes - space and deep ocean. The text lyrically describes the beauty, similarities and contrasts of the different landscapes. Joyner's illustrations are lovely, both sweet and funny. The rich, turquoise swathes of color show both the emptiness of space, and the quiet of the deep sea. Perky Garcia is a sweet little gray rabbit with a pink nose while Colette delves into her explorations with a cheerful yellow dress, and neatly tipped ears and swooping foxy nose. Strange creatures populate both the dark blue of space and the deep green of the sea.

Verdict: A little long for a toddler storytime, this is perfect for a preschool storytime or a program on exploration, scientific observation, or just learning how to compromise with a friend. Joyner's cheerful illustrations are sure to make this sweet story a hit with readers and listeners alike.

ISBN: 9780399176753; Published 2017 by G. P. Putnam's Sons; Review copy provided by publisher; Donated to the library

Monday, August 7, 2017

The quest for Z by Greg Pizzoli

Percy Fawcett has always attracted a wide circle of interest, but the general public had mostly forgotten him until the publication a few years ago of the adult title The lost city of Z by David Grann and then a movie in 2016 based on the story.

Basically, Percy Fawcett was the last of the great white British explorers. As the world changed around him, he refused to adapt to the modern age and continued to insist on the existence of a fabled lost city in the Amazon jungle. He made multiple expeditions to the jungle in search of the "lost city" but never found it. Finally, in 1925, he made one last expedition, funded by newspapers, accompanied by his son and best friend and a skeleton crew. This catapulted Fawcett and his quest to fame as people eagerly followed his adventures. After only one month, Fawcett, his son Jack and son's friend Raleigh Rimell, disappeared, never to be heard from again.

Over the years, many people from serious researchers to celebrities attempted to discover the fate of Fawcett and his fabled lost city but neither were ever found. Eventually, archeaologists discovered that there were in fact large, ancient civilizations in the jungle, although they did not resemble Fawcett's dream city. But no one ever discovered the fate of Fawcett, Jack and Raleigh.

Pizzoli translates this real-life adventure tale with his trademark minimalist illustrations and skill into a riveting epic for young readers. Blocky, graphic-like art shows the cost of Fawcett's expeditions, the loss of life, and his constant quest. Readers who like survival stories and adventures will find themselves caught by the dream and excitement of Fawcett's helpless quest.

Personally, I have a lot of problems with the continuation of the "great white explorer" narrative. Although Pizzoli makes an effort to include native reactions and participation, the focus of the story is always Fawcett. There are very few narratives that address the reactions and even existence of the people already living in the Amazonian jungles (or other places explorers "discovered"). Even more so does this narrative ignore the fate of the families left behind, like Fawcett's abandoned wife, who not only had to support their families but drum up support for the explorer.

Verdict: This will circulate, but personally I'd like to see more narratives of female explorers or native perspectives. I'm tired of dead white explorers and I don't feel that abandoning your family in pursuit of some fabled ideal is particularly noteworthy.

ISBN: 9780670016532; Published 2017 by Viking; Review copy provided by publisher; Donated to the library

Saturday, August 5, 2017

This week at the library; or, Summer is over. Deep breath. New stuff happening.

Most of my time and energy this week has gone towards the interview and hiring process for a new associate. I've also been scrambling to clean out the basement and get projects and so on organized for the month. We also had about 80 people at Craft-o-Rama and 50 at Free Lego Build. Plus I supervised the bi-annual knit-in Friday night.

I had my last Library on the Go visit and wrote up an evaluation of the program launch. I'll need to write a more complete report for the grant later.

I revised and updated Read and Grow: 1,000 Books Before Kindergarten. (I still need to link the reading bookmarks I added)

Projects for the rest of the month
  • Completely redo Reading Explorer
  • Update and plan book clubs
  • Update and plan after school clubs
  • Revise staff training materials
  • Clean out the basement and organize materials
  • Newsletter and publicity
  • A couple grants
  • Finish weeding YA fiction, picture books, and Juvenile fiction 900s
  • Survey for parents of our special needs kids
  • Spring programming (because I won't have time to do it later!)

Friday, August 4, 2017

Daisy Dreamer and the totally true imaginary friend by Holly Anna, illustrated by Genevieve Santos

Daisy loves to dream, imagine, and create. She has a cat, Sir Pounce, who is good at solving mysteries and a grandmother, Upsy, who understands her love of spinning stories and daydreaming.

She loves her quirky teacher Mr. Roberts and her best friends Jasmine and Lily. She does not like snooty Gabby, who she has to sit with at school and who rips a page out of her special journal! But then the imaginary friend she drew becomes ALIVE. What adventures await Daisy and her friends?

This is very much a set up for a series and a typical beginning chapter series at that, although it is quite cute. Personally, my sympathies are with Gabby - not everyone enjoys answering roll call by barking like a seal and Daisy and her friends are quite snooty on their own, hiding in their special place so the other girls can't see what they're doing. Jasmine has dark skin and curly hair, but is only a supporting character.

The really strong feature of this series are the cute illustrations; thick black lines show the quirky friends, enthusiastic teacher, and pudgy imaginary friend becoming real.

Verdict: Nothing particularly outstanding, although the illustrations do shine. Add if you have a lot of Junie B. fans and are running out of books for them. Will also be popular where some of the more girly Branches titles circulate a lot, as this is about the same level with lots of illustrations.

ISBN: 9781481486316; Published 2017 by Simon and Schuster; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Oakwing: A fairy's tale by E. J. Clarke

What if you became a fairy - but you didn't want to be one? This happens to Rowan and her subsequent adventures make for delightful and exciting reading.

Seven years after her mother's disappearance, Rowan returns to the tree in Hyde Park, where she spent her last happy hours with her mother and sister, Willow. Overwhelmed by caring for her father and sister, longing for her mother, she falls asleep crying...and wakes up a fairy. She meets another fairy, Aiken (shown as a dark-skinned boy on the cover) and a friendly robin, Harold, who tell her that she is now, and forever, a fairy. She can never leave the safety of the park, never return to her family. Rowan refuses to accept this; even though she fell asleep feeling unloved, misses her mother dreadfully, and isn't sure her family really loves her, she knows for sure that she loves them and they need her.

Rowan sets out on a journey that will take her across London, to a network of parks, and into contact with powerful fairies, magical animals, and evil villains. Along the way she discovers inner strength and magic and finds out the truth of what happened to her mother many years ago. The story ends with Rowan managing to change back to human, but it's a bittersweet victory; her mother is still trapped in the fairy world and there are still dangers from the evil foxes, and the obsessive river fairies. A war is brewing in the fairy's world and Rowan has left her mother behind in its midst.

This is a shorter fantasy, coming in at 180 pages, it's a good choice for readers who are past the beginning chapter phase but not ready for doorstoppers yet. It's rather British - the different parks, references to the queen, Peter Pan, etc. although I found it refreshing that Rowan didn't know everything either - she didn't know who Queen Victoria was, since they "hadn't done that yet" in school! I was personally a little annoyed that the foxes were evil, since I like foxes, but it does work with the story.

Verdict: Not earth-shattering, but a sweet story with lots of miniature details and magical elements that will attract Rainbow Magic readers ready for a longer chapter book. The cliffhanger at the end promises sequels and while the story is sad at the beginning and takes a little while to get moving, once the fairies make an appearance it's all action.

ISBN: 9781481481915; This edition published 2017 by Aladdin; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Read, Read, Read, said the Baby: Where's the ladybug? by Ingela P. Arrhenius

As I refresh the board book section, I am trying to strike a reasonable balance between adding all the touchy-feely/movable books that parents and babies love and adding books that will last more than a few checkouts.

I like Arrhenius' simple, poster-like artwork and when I saw that this book involved felt I decided I just had to have it. It's also the first book with our new "Busy Books" sticker, denoting a board book with some kind of toy aspect.

The book is the classic game of peekaboo. Colorful pages ask where a creature is and little readers pull back a flap of felt to reveal the little bug. A green felt leaf with a bite out of it peels back to show a caterpillar, a hot pink tulip reveals a bee, a neon orange rock shows a snail, two white daisy petals hide a ladybug, and the final selection, a turquoise bush, hides a mirror for children to peer into and see themselves.

The flaps are created by a slit in the double pages of thin cardboard, into which is glued the felt. It feels very sturdy, although I don't know how long it will stand up to little hands tugging and pulling. It also may spark ideas in parents for creating their own felt-flap books!

Verdict: Sure to be popular and sturdy enough to hold together at least for a few circulations, I am looking forward to purchasing more titles in this delightful new series.

ISBN: 9780763693350; Published 2017 by Nosy Crow; Purchased for the libraryRead, Read, Read, said the Baby: Where's the ladybug? by Ingela P. Arrhenius

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Bunny's Book Club by Annie Silvestro, illustrated by Tatjana Mai-Wyss

I'm usually not a fan of "celebrations of libraries" picture books. I feel that if you already like the library they're superfluous (and a bit self-indulgent) and if you don't you're not going to encounter them anyways. But I do have a little bit of a weakness for cute animals discovering the joy of books and libraries, like Kohara's Midnight Library or Pauli's Fox in the Library.

This new title hit my adorable button right away. Bunny has been introduced to the wonder of books by listening to outdoor storytimes by the old library. But when summer ends and storytime moves back inside, he becomes desperate to get access to his beloved books. Finally, he figures out how to sneak in through the book drop and happily carries piles of books, a few at a time, back to his den. When his friends show up, one by one, he introduces them to the wonders of books (Bear is a little tricky to get through the book drop) and one by one they become equally enthralled.

But then the librarian discovers them! Will they be separated from their beloved books forever? Spoiler - of course not! The librarian gives them library cards and Bunny happily starts a book club for all his forest friends.

Soft, pastel colors show a sweet variety of large and small pictures, including delicate details in the woods and a diverse group of children and staff. My favorite is the little girl whose buoyant pigtails mimic Bunny's ears! The library is a little sentimentalized - the quiet group of listening children all look to be around 5 or 6 and the library has unnaturally tall shelves and an odd color scheme - but it's a dream library, not a real one, meant to show the importance and love of books for a small child (or a bunny).

Verdict: Not a necessary purchase, but I just loved it so much. The sweet pictures, delicate outdoor details, joy in books, and diverse library patrons and staff made me fall in love and I can't wait to introduce this on a school tour next year.

ISBN: 9780553537581; Published 2017 by Doubleday; Borrowed from another library in my consortium